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Book Contents

Ch. 4
Designing and Developing Decision Support Systems

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DSS Project Management

Moving from an informal exploration of a suggestion or desire for a DSS to a formal project is an important step. An executive sponsor should push to have a project manager assigned to the project. The initial tasks of the project manager include diagnosis, a feasibility study, and a definition of the objectives and scope of the proposed project. Once these steps are done then the executive sponsor needs to choose to push the project or postpone any further work on the project. Depending upon the scope of the DSS project an executive sponsor may be able to directly fund the project or funding may be budgeted as part of business and information systems planning. The larger the scope of the proposed project the more important it is to receive widespread agreement and sponsorship of the project. The objectives of a large-scope DSS project must be strategically motivated, should have strong executive support and must meet a business need. Large scope projects may benefit from having co-project managers: a business and a technical manager. If co-managers are designated clear authority and responsibility guidelines should be established.

Once a project is approved then a methodology and project plan needs to be developed and a project team needs to be assembled. If the project will be outsourced, then a process needs to be developed for creating a request-for-proposals and then evaluating proposals. If the development will occur in-house development tools and technical issues need to be resolved. The feasibility analysis should have determined if the project could be completed in-house.

User requirements need to be specified in some detail. For large projects the DSS architecture must be specified and any changes or additions to the Information Systems and Information Technology (IS/IT) infrastructure must be planned. Once these crucial preliminaries are completed then systems design or prototyping can occur. The project tasks will not be completed in a simple, linear sequence and the project manager must actively manage the project. Whenever possible, the project manager and in some cases a co-project manager from the business area most affected should consult and work with other potential users. The project manager must keep the executive sponsor informed. If problems are occurring or might occur the sponsor needs to be alerted.

The project manager should identify tasks that must be completed, resources that are needed and project deliverables. Deliverables are especially important for monitoring the progress of the project. Milestones or important project events are also often identified to help non-technical managers monitor a project. The Chief Information Officer (CIO) of a firm and one or more business managers will be monitoring the progress of a large scope or high visibility DSS project. Managers expect results from DSS projects. Understanding and meeting the expectations of managers who will use a DSS is the most important and most difficult part of a DSS project managers job.

The project manager defines project plans and manages the daily activities associated with the project. The project manager coordinates project resources, the project budget, status reporting, changes in requirements and tasks, relations with vendors, and relations with sponsors, skeptics, and MIS staff. A DSS project manager may come from information systems or from a functional department. A DSS project manager needs strong technical skills, outstanding people skills and knowledge of the business.

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